Emily Batty grabs first major gold medal in biking career with victory at Pan Am Games

On the second day of the 2015 Pan Am Games, the two finest cross-country mountain bikers placed Canada on the podium. As they dominated the rest of its field, Emily Batty and Catharine Pendrel were more than five minutes ahead.

Competing at the Hardwood Bike Park in Oro-Medonte, Ontario (north of host city Toronto), their ability to navigate through a 5.2 kilometer track of stone and clusters of trees was no easy feat. Having to complete five grueling laps, a section of the track is known as “The Grunt” for its steep climb, while a descent filled with jagged rocks is infamously titled “The Boneshaker”.

Pendrel and Batty (right) all smiles after a dominant finish. (Photo credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Pendrel and Batty (right) all smiles after a dominant finish. (Photo credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Showing no fear, the result was a gold and silver medal outcome for the Canadian racers. As Batty, a native of Brooklin, Ontario, grabbed gold, Pendrel, who was the reigning world champion, settled for silver. Ironically, the two finished in the top two in last year’s Commonwealth Games, although Pendrel gained the gold.

Taking into account that this is also Batty’s home course, it only added to the jubilation of the victory, the first major gold medal in her career. Of note, she began racing at the course when she was 10 years old. With less than a kilometer in the race,
Batty tapped into a reserve of effort and overtook Pendrel for the lead.

Prevailing over her closest competitor with a narrow seven-second lead, her total time was 1:27:13. Of note, American Erin Huck captured the bronze, five minutes and 23 seconds behind Batty. Complementing Batty’s win was fellow Canadian Raphael Gagne, taking the gold in the men’s race with a time of 1:34:06.

Having once donned the cover of Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition, Batty and Gagne were featured on CBC News’ The National on Sunday night. Currently ranked seventh in the world, Batty’s smile beamed across millions of television sets for viewers to admire as the world class racer looks to build on such strong momentum for the remainder of the biking season, including gold medal ambitions at the 2016 Rio Summer Games.

Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty in Sport Issue captures the essence with several captivating athletes

With photo shoots ranging throughout Canada and a rigorous five day shoot in Las Vegas, Sportsnet Magazine released its second annual Beauty in Sport issue. Although some critics could dismiss the publication as competition for the ESPN Body Issue, the reality is that both give the opportunity to spotlight female athletes who toil in anonymity for little recognition.

As Sportsnet is a Canadian periodical published by Rogers, the athletes featured between the covers are all Canadian. With 28 athletes featured, 19 are female. While even the most dedicated sports fan would have difficulty identifying the names of the female athletes (and the sport they compete in), their beauty and sex appeal is only part of the package.

The one common factor among all athletes is injuries, and bumps and bruises were evident with some of the athletes. X-Games world champion Kelsey Serwa arrived with a swollen knee due to surgery. Canadian soccer sweethearts Kaylyn Klye and Emily Zurrer both had scrapes up to their thighs.

In being an athlete, the commitment involved takes great desire, and the discipline and dedication required is a unique quality. Their hard work and character displays a very strong, rugged yet admirable inner beauty that makes them role models for all athletes, male or female.

While publisher Steve Maich acknowledged that it was different working with athletes because they were not models, he was also quick to acknowledge that all the athletes were likeable people. Although many of the female athletes are not household names, there was a few that certainly left their mark in the world of sport.

Competing in the cross-country mountain biking competition at London 2012, Brooklin, Ontario’s Emily Batty was the cover girl for the issue. The blonde beauty did not medal at London, but she certainly captured the hearts and minds of many sports fans with her magnetic smile on the cover.

Three females were gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; Kallie Humphries, Tessa Virtue and Meaghan Mikkelson. While all three come from very different sporting backgrounds – bobsleigh, ice dancing and ice hockey – all three are authentic Canadian heroes.

Mikk Meaghan Mikkelson

Another trio of heroes highlighted the females featured in the Beauty of Sport. A tantalizing trio of members from Canada’s soccer team that gained bronze at the 2012 London Summer Games was photographed in Las Vegas. Featuring Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer, all three donned their swimsuits while a dolphin would leap in the background behind them.

Rugby teammates Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters also exchanged their shorts and jerseys for swimsuits. Mervin, 31 and Waters, 30 are also members of the British Columbia provincial rugby team. The dynamic duo was photographed together at the MGM Grand and the Neon Museum.

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Of note, Mervin is accustomed to the camera. Having played with the national team since 2004, she was also part of a nude calendar in 2012 that featured members of Canada’s women’s rugby team.

While she leaves enough for the imagination, it is important to emphasize that Swervin Mervin (as she is affectionately known) is more than just beautiful. There is an even greater beauty beneath the surface. Having transitioned from 15s to 7s, she spends a remarkable five hours a day in training. She is an empowering woman whose great sense of teamwork, assistance with summer camps and coaching at the University of Victoria comprise makes her a role model for young women looking to get into sport.

Of all the athletes that ventured down to Las Vegas, the most unique may have been Summer Mortimer.
Mortimer Summer Mortimer

After a trampoline accident caused significant damage to the bones in her feet, she displayed great courage by learning to swim again. Having won four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she was one of Canada’s sweethearts at the event. Along with five world records in para-swimming, she was also named an Athlete Ambassador for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games. Appropriately, she grew up near Toronto in Burlington. At 20 years old, not only does she conduct herself with a quiet dignity and grace that makes her an admirable athlete, but she was one of the youngest athletes featured in the publication.

While she is the first paralympic athlete to appear in the Beauty of Sport, it is worth noting that the ESPN Body Issue has also featured physically challenged athletes. As Swimming World Magazine stated in a review of Mortimer appearing in the issue, athletes are not only a vision of health, but these kinds of photo shoots promote a healthy lifestyle and set a positive example.

Six other athletes were photographed at Las Vegas. Among the group, it included volleyball player Claire Hanna, a three-time CIS national champion with the UBC Thunderbirds. Forty year-old curler Heather Smith-Dacey and Kelsey Serwa, who competed in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was photographed at Red Rock Canyon.

World Cup skeleton champion Melissa Hollingsworth, a bronze medalist from the Torino Winter Games was photographed at the MGM Grand. Joining her at the venue was 2012 FIS World Cup gold medal skier Erin Mielzynski.

Four other athletes from this remarkable group of women were photographed in Toronto. A pair of track and field sensations, Brianne Theisen and Phylicia George was photographed at Monarch Park. George finished in the 100 meter hurdles at London 2012, while Theisen competed in the Heptathlon.
Sarah Wells, a competitor in the 400-meter hurdles at London 2012 modeled Nike (like George) for her photo shoot. Taylor Pischke, a beach volleyball player with six Canadian national titles was photographed wearing Miss Jackson swimwear at Ashbridges Bay.

Credit goes to Maich who acknowledged that compared to other countries, Canada needed to do a better job at elevating their athletes to star status. While fans may already be anticipating the 2014 edition, there is no question that the athletes featured are helping to shed a positive light on Canadian sport.

Photos of Summer Mortimer, Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters and Meaghan Mikkelson by Matt Barnes